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Group Offers (Unsolicited) Advice to Obama on EPA Chief

By Ed O'Keefe

With several cabinet-level and other high-profile appointments yet to be named by President-elect Barack Obama, you can bet he's getting plenty of advice on whom to pick and whom to avoid.

Case in point: A letter from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) urging Obama to steer clear of Lisa P. Jackson, the former Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, an Obama transition team member and the recently-appointed chief of staff to Gov. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.).

Jackson has a reputation for "embracing a highly politicized approach to environmental decision-making that resulted in suppression of scientific information, issuance of gag orders restricting disclosures and threats against professional staff members who dared to voice concerns," the letter states. "Contrary to your pledges of a transparent government, Ms. Jackson preferred a closed-door model of decision-making based upon non-public meetings with regulated industry executives and lobbyists."

The group is also concerned about what it calls Jackson's "failure" to properly manage cleanup efforts at approximately 16,000 contaminated sites across New Jersey.

But a potential Jackson pick would be well-received by others. She's been involved in environmental policy for more than a dozen years and has long wanted the EPA job, according to New Jersey news reports. Her possible ascension to EPA was reportedly discussed before she became Corzine's chief of staff last week. Jackson has the support of Corzine and many of the state's legislators. She may also be helped by the Obama team's desire to appoint several women and people of color to high-profile positions including EPA administrator, as noted in a recent Post report.

Instead of Jackson, PEER wants Obama to pick Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as the next EPA administrator. "He would both inspire the workforce and restore some public credibility as well as have the independence to say 'no' to the Obama White House if he thought it was warranted," said PEER executive director Jeff Ruch. The group decided to send its letter to Obama following news reports suggested Jackson is a finalist for the job. "We'd be delighted to be wrong," about their decision to write the letter, Ruch said.

UPDATE 2:38 p.m. ET: The Eye failed to mention originally that PEER is an advocacy group comprised of state and federal employees that work for agencies and departments that perform conservation or environmental-related work. It often works with members to call out policies and leadership that it believes run counter to environmental protection.

Moments after posting the original item, Corzine spokeman Sean Darcy replied to The Eye noting that "Lisa is here, she's the chief of staff," referring to Jackson's whereabouts and her new role with the Garden State governor. "We don't really know anything about it over here," he said of Jackson's potential job with EPA nor did he elaborate on how a new job might impact the governor's office.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 8, 2008; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Revolving Door  
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Hmm, interesting. Any veracity to PEER's claims? Are they a union, a pirg-like group, etc....?

Posted by: DLiu | December 8, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

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